Filth & Wisdom


Movie Review by Willard Manus

Madonna goes to film school in FILTH & WISDOM, the new indie release which she has directed and co-written--and financed with her own money. Shot in London, FILTH & WISDOM is a quirky, chaotic and raunchy piece of work. "It started as a short but as I fell in love with the characters I wanted them to have more of a life so I created new ones and the triangle of AK, Holly and Juliette grew. When the film was finished I realized they were all aspects of me so the whole experience was both artistic and therapuetic," Madonna confides in a press note.

Maddeningly uneven and self-indulgent as FILTH & WISDOM is, it does have an anarchic, comic and offbeat spirit which holds it together and makes it watchable. Madonna has also cast the film well, beginning with its lead role, AK, played by Eugene Hutz, last seen as the ebullient Ukranian guide in Everything is Illuminated. Hutz narrates FILTH & WISDOM, talking directly to the camera as he tries to get across his Gypsy-influenced ideas about life and love.

Hutz is an authentic underground hero. Dressed in flamboyant 60s gear, sporting a Dali-like moustache, he zaps around town at max speed, hustling the CDs made by his punk band, Gogol Bordello. AK's dream is to reach superstardom, but in the meantime he survives by running S & M sessions out of his living room. AK is hilarious in his well-rehearsed turns as a Marine drill sergeant, a Dressage rider and Maggy Thatcher lookalike.

Aiding him are his roommates, Holly (Holly Weston) and Juliette (Vicky McClure), two young hotties who have ambitious agendas of their own. Holly would like to dance at Covent Garden, Juliette longs to become a modern-day Florence Nightingale. Reality, however, has other ideas for them. Holly ends up working as a pole dancer in a strip club, Juliette as a clerk in a drugstore run by a lecherous Indian (Inder Manocha). Another key character is Christopher Flynn (Richard E. Grant), a once-famous novelist who gave up writing and became a recluse when he lost his eyesight.

AK fights to save and uplift his three friends by pumping them full of wild punk tunes and homespun poetry. It's all very nutty and bizarre, but it does have a few enjoyable moments.